The first detail to note is that Paul assumes that the Colossians are praying – that aspect is revealed in the word ‘continue’. Paul expected Christians to pray and unless he knew otherwise he assumed they were doing so. No doubt, Epaphras would have told him about the prayer meetings in Colosse, whatever format they took. Paul’s attitude here is evidence of his confidence in God’s grace that it would produce praying people.
His attitude would also have been encouraging for the Colossians. They had never met Paul and may how wondered how such a notable leader regarded them. Now they had his thoughts about them – he appreciated their prayers and wanted them to go on praying for him. Paul not only had confidence in the God who was at work in their lives, he also trusted them to fulfil this basic Christian duty of intercessory prayer.
Paul was also aware that good practices had to continue. How would their prayer lives keep going? A clue to Paul’s insight into how a healthy prayer life can be maintained is seen in the word ‘steadfastly’. They have to keep on doing it. Of course, such a practice is a permanent expression of our dependence on God. It is also evidence that we delight to be in the presence of God.
Further, they were to be watchful as they prayed. Paul’s use of the term ‘watchful’ is a reminder that in prayer we should be alert. Since he does not specify what it is that they were to be alert for, we can suggest a number of possibilities.
He could mean to watch as a soldier does for opponents, so we have to guard against spiritual enemies such as the devil and temptation. Or he could mean we should be alert as a recorder and take careful note of what we ask and of what we receive, and since we are to pray with thankfulness this could be the point that the apostle is making. Or it could mean to pray intelligently, to be an observer of what is happening and to pray particularly for such developments in our congregations, our neighbourhoods, our country, and around the world.
Alongside watchfulness in our prayers should be thankfulness. Paul has already in the closing verses of chapter 3 stressed the importance of thanksgiving. Thankfulness is evidence that we are grateful to God, and the presence of such gratitude is proof that we understand grace. Prayer without thankfulness is not true prayer.